Do not expect efforts that businesses have taken to become more sustainable to come to a halt, even as the Trump administration takes steps to roll back Obama-era climate and environmental policies, corporate leaders told a New York City audience. During the Bloomberg Sustainable Business Summit in New York City on Oct. 13, executives from NRG Energy Inc., Schlumberger Ltd., Salesforce.com Inc. and other companies discussed strategies to clean up their supply chains, reduce carbon emissions and encourage sustainable approaches elsewhere.
Ray Long, vice president for state and federal government affairs at NRG, said that despite headlines about the repeal of the Clean Power Plan and the U.S. pulling out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, momentum toward a clean energy economy is moving ahead. Prices for solar and wind power have dropped 60% to 80% since 2010, making renewable energy cheaper than much of the grid power available in many states, Long said.
At the same time, "You have companies that are concerned with ongoing weather events and how those weather events impact their bottom line," he added.
Long said NRG research found that 65 of the leading companies, representing $5 trillion in market cap, have 48 million MWh of demand for renewable energy annually. NRG's goal is to reduce its emissions footprint by 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050. Since 2014, Long said, NRG has reduced its emissions by 36%, mostly by switching from coal to natural gas at three power plants.
Sustainability is good business, said Jean-Francois Poupeau, executive vice president of corporate engagement at oilfield services company Schlumberger Ltd.
"That's why irrespective of the noises that may happen here or there, businesses are all forging ahead with the plans they put in place years ago and that they also have plans to keep going for decades to come," Poupeau said.
Patrick Flynn, senior director of sustainability at Salesforce, said the San Francisco-based company in 2013 committed to powering its data centers with 100% renewable energy. Salesforce later said it would use renewable resources for all of its electricity needs, something it is doing in part by signing two 12-year "virtual" power purchase agreements for wind projects in Texas and West Virginia.
Flynn said a virtual PPA is akin to signing a long-term lease for a planned office building that allows for the building to be developed, then subletting space you do not use. In the case of the wind projects, Salesforce provided financial certainty to the developer so the project gets financing, and Salesforce gets renewable energy attributes from the projects.
Salesforce in August also signed on with San Francisco's community choice aggregation program to provide 100% renewable energy to two of its buildings in the city, he said. The company's support for renewables is driven by a mix of marketing, economics and encouragement from employees, customers and local communities.
"They are clearly advocating for environmental leadership for clean air and water for all and for future generations," said Flynn.